Tom Wilson
September 1, 2005
Photos By: Mark Wilson

When you give a car "a quick couple of gears," and suddenly realize you're doing a buck twenty when you thought you might be doing eighty, it's a good sign you're dealing with a fast car.

We've also come to recognize a lightheaded feeling during acceleration. Cars that cause that sensation must be floating your brain backwards in the skull to cause such a feeling, and such cars are fast.

Having both rear tires break loose on dry pavement while simply moving through traffic is another good indication you have more than grocery-getting power.

Likewise, spinning the tires in Third gear when you have the bit between your teeth is a note to the observant that there's something special under the hood.

Having a car power oversteer in a 60 mph corner when you gave it half throttle is a message to the intelligent to be careful because there is real power on tap.

Noting "582" under the "Corrected Rear Wheel Horsepower" column on a chassis dyno readout is an excellent sign you're in horsepower country, and when you're dealing with the red coupe pictured here, you are definitely in musclecar territory. It does all the things listed above, and after a career of sampling fast cars, we say this one qualifies for that rarified level that impresses the power-jaded such as ourselves. The amazing part is you can duplicate this performance using a Mustang Cobra from SVT, the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog, some tuning help, and a supercharged wallet.

We know this, because this deliciously over-powered Cobra is a joint effort of Ford's Special Vehicle Team, which supplied an extra '03 Cobra it just happened to have handy, and Ford Racing, which you may have noticed has a catalog of go-fast parts for late-model Mustangs in its FRPP catalog. Each party decided it would like to show the world what its stuff was capable of, and so SVT's Cobra was coated in white glue and crashed through FRPP's voluminous warehouse. Just about anything sporty for a Cobra stuck, and we have this rather nifty Ford project car to tell you about.

Make no mistake, this is a technology-parts demonstrator only-pure enthusiast billfold bait. This car doesn't have a chance of production, and was never intended for such. It's here simply to get us excited.

Which, of course, it does well. Once you start reviewing the parts list, it's easy to see why. Let's begin by lifting the hood, as this car is all about the engine. Naturally, the short-block is SVT's killer iron-block unit filled with forged internals, but this one has been topped with FRPP's High-Flow Four-Valve heads, High Lift camshafts, and a Whipple-sourced twin-screw supercharger pullied for 14 pounds of boost. A K&N FIPK kit lets the air in, while FRPP short-tube ceramic-coated headers, a Bassani high-flow cat X-pipe, and FRPP's Borla Cat-Back mufflers let the air out.

Ford Racing did the smart thing when it came to tuning its creation, taking it to an experienced tuning shop-Paul's High Performance-for the company's fuel system upgrade. The upgrade includes 60-lb/hr injectors, injector harnesses, a 90mm mass air meter, high-capacity fuel rails modified to fit the Whipple blower and a line kit, as well as two 190-lph Motorcraft fuel pumps. Somewhere along the line, a Ford Motor Company custom engine management calibration was flashed into the computer.

With this '03 Cobra starting out with a T56 six-speed transmission, there was no need for a gearbox swap. Instead, the shifter was changed to a Hurst unit wearing the stock shifter's handle, and the stock 3.55 rear gears were swapped to acceleration-happy 3.73s.

Ford Racing didn't substantially change the suspension, opting for its '00 Cobra R coil springs front and rear, FR500 18x9-inch wheels in chrome, along with 265/35ZR-18 front and 295/35ZR-18 rear BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KD tires. Extra braking is supplied by Ford Racing's Brembo-sourced '00 Cobra R front brake kit. That gives it slotted rotors, four-piston calipers, and competition pads. In back, FRPP's competition brake pads were fitted.

Doing their considerable best to cradle your carcass efficiently inside the capsule are '00 Cobra R Recaro seats, plus an FRPP boost and water temperature A-pillar gauge pod. Topping off the catalog items are an SVT 10th Anniversary Mustang Cobra shift knob and boot.

With a few exceptions, we'd have to say the result is what a '60s musclecar could have evolved into. After all, it has mind-bending power-it feels like a healthy 600 cubic inches-and doesn't place any meaningful emphasis on handling, although it isn't bad that way. This coupe was even overseen by a great musclecar aficionado, John Coletti, before he retired as the head of SVE. In fact, it strongly reminds us of John's favorite project car, The Boss. That one sported just over 600 cubic inches of fuel-injected Boss 429 when we drove it.

This project car drives like a modern musclecar, too. It off-handedly slimes the rear tires in First, smokes 'em in Second if you don't lift, and will turn them loose in Third. Acceleration is limited in First gear because you can't get the power down-the traction control is permanently defeated in this car-and takes careful throttle management in Second. But get it in Third and the world starts bending back like the hyperdrive kicked in, and before you know it, it's felony fast.

But whereas the old musclecars were simply hopeless in curves, this one does OK there. Thank the modern tires and reasonable spring and shock rates for the improvement. Mind you, you won't beat any Corvettes on Kentucky backroads with this battle-axe. The front end is definitely too heavy-the entire car is, for that matter-and understeer shows up a bit soon. Then there's all that power under your right foot, so you have to be careful when squeezing the trigger on corner exit, lest the understeer suddenly convert to more than thrilling oversteer.

It's not a sports-car driving position, either. Seemingly designed for apes, this car does nothing to correct the late Cobra's long-armed driving position. The seat goes back far enough for legroom, but then the steering wheel is too far away and the shifter is in another zip code. We had to keep leaning forward out of the seat to reach the shifter, which notched heavily gear-to-gear. The shifter is over-sprung to favor the 3-4 gate, and more than once we pulled back from Fifth and got Fourth instead of Sixth.

And while we're whining, it sure would be nice to have a T56 in a Mustang with a tall Sixth gear. Cars with locomotive torque, like this one, hardly need six gears to get around-three will do it-so why not make Sixth a real chugger like the one in the Dodge Viper? We'd like to see 1,700 rpm at 75 mph. Instead, we habitually saw 2,200 rpm on the freeway, thanks to those 3.73 cogs that lead directly to this car's real issue: its fuel burn. If electric cars had just taken over and they were giving gasoline away, the often single-digit mpg figure and peanut-sized fuel tank combination might make sense, but as it was, we had the car a week and we don't think we went a day without stopping at a gas station. We didn't keep track, but we probably burned $150 worth of premium that week, while admittedly covering more ground than a migrating albatross. Still, should you self-assemble this glorious monster, it could mean a $10 a day commute-or a who-cares attitude when it only comes out on Saturday night.

And another thing: noise. This thing trumpets better than Dizzy Gilespie, especially at freeway cruise rpm. The idle is surprisingly quiet, yet with an enthusiastic burble, and unleashed, the roar is Wagnerian poetry. But the freeway cruise is anti-social, with the ever-present din blaring off the car next to you (people on the freeway move over a lane, if possible) and booming off tunnel walls with such gusto you notice it with the windows rolled up. Every neighbor within two blocks knows when you come and go, too

Braking was good, but we think it would have been better with a little pad maintenance. They felt a bit glazed and would likely retard better "once the smoke was let out of 'em" as we've heard one braking expert put it. With Hydraboost, the pedal was just the way we like it, good and firm with little travel.

But in the end, it's the effortless power that keeps drawing you back. We reveled in freeway merging, as any cluck could block us all the way up the ramp, then mindlessly move over lane after lane, except with this car we didn't have to wait around to absorb the full measure of their inconsideration because we were gone, outta there, making tracks. With this kind of power, you wait for no one.

Secondary road passing was another highlight; safely and easily done every time. In the remaining aspects, this is a real car, with good hot rod driveability. The body was tight, the ride refreshingly compliant for a hot rod, and with a little less noise and a taller Sixth gear we could strongly recommend it as a real-world rocket.

But for now, it's just to get excited about.

Mr. Whipple?Relatively new on the Ford scene is the Whipple supercharger, thanks to FRPP carrying its supercharger kitted for late-model modulars. If you're familiar with Kenne Bell's Lysholm-screw design blower, then the Whipple blower will be familiar. Whipple and Kenne Bell are fierce aftermarket competitors, but the internals of both blowers-the twin screws, drives, and so on-are both sourced from the Swedish Lysholm concern. That makes both high-efficiency, positive-displacement blowers. Packaging, manifolding, and accessories are unique to each company.

Speeding TicketHere's a list of the parts FRPP put on its SVT Cobra project. Just remember, there is no labor included here, and even if you do the work yourself, there is some engine management work you'll need to farm out. This could easily include an aftermarket engine management system, and dyno time for tuning.

FROM THE FRPP CATALOG:
Part Part Number Price
Supercharger (Whipple) {{{M}}}-6066-CT46 $3,150
High-lift camshafts M-6550-T46 $1,495
High-flow Four-Valve head M-06049-T46 $795
High-flow Four-Valve head M-06050-T46 $795
Short-tube headers M-9430-E465 $355
Cat-Back exhaust (Borla) M-5230-MSC $790
3.73 rear-axle gears M-4209-F373-N $199
Shifter (Hurst) M-7210-T56 $189
Cobra R springs M-5310-R00 $165
Cobra R springs M-5560-R00 $139
Cobra R front brakekit (Brembo) M-2300-X $1,295
Cobra R rear brake pads M-2200-R00 $79.95
FR 500 wheels M-1007-F500C $350
10th Anniv. shift knob M-7213-C $49.95
10th Anniv. shift boot M-7277-B $49.95
Cobra R Recaro seats, pair M-16620-C $2,599
Gauge twin-gauge pod M-17556-M201 $74.95
Boost gauge M-10883-A200 $75.00
Water-temp gauge M-11622-A200 $59.95
Directly from manufacturer:
Bassani X-Pipe   $699
Paul’s High Perf. fuel system   $2,123
BFGoodrich g-Force T/A tires   $1,150
{{{Ford}}} custom engine calibration   Unobtainium
Parts total:   $16,577.75
Base {{{Mustang}}} Cobra MSRP:   $33,125.00
Total Car and Parts price:   $49,702.75*
    *Installation labor not included.
ON THE DYNO
RPM POWER TORQUE
2,050 156.7 401.4
2,109 165.4 412.0
2,169 173.7 420.7
2,230 180.3 424.6
2,293 188.3 431.3
2,356 196.2 437.4
2,421 204.0 442.5
2,485 211.9 447.7
2,552 219.8 452.2
2,618 227.9 457.2
2,685 236.1 462.0
2,753 244.4 466.3
2,822 252.7 470.2
2,891 261.6 475.3
2,962 269.7 478.3
3,034 277.9 481.0
3,099 286.9 486.3
3,181 295.3 487.6
3,254 304.9 492.0
3,320 313.6 496.1
3,393 {{{323}}}.2 500.2
3,466 331.3 501.9
3,541 339.8 504.0
3,614 348.0 {{{505}}}.7
3,686 356.3 507.7
3,{{{760}}} 364.0 508.4
3,835 371.7 509.0
3,909 379.6 510.0
3,984 388.0 511.5
4,059 396.8 513.4
4,133 {{{405}}}.4 515.2
4,206 413.7 516.5
4,278 421.9 517.9
4,351 429.4 518.3
RPM POWER TORQUE
4,424 437.0 518.8
4,497 445.0 519.7
4,570 453.1 520.7
4,642 460.9 521.5
4,713 467.9 521.4
4,785 474.7 521.0
4,855 481.2 520.5
4,925 487.1 519.5
4,995 493.7 519.1
5,064 499.9 518.4
5,135 506.2 517.8
5,206 512.9 517.5
5,275 519.9 517.6
5,343 526.4 517.5
5,410 531.2 515.7
5,478 535.4 513.4
5,545 539.2 510.7
5,611 542.9 508.2
5,677 549.2 508.1
5,742 554.5 507.2
5,807 558.5 505.0
5,872 562.6 503.2
5,936 566.4 501.1
5,999 569.2 498.4
6,063 572.1 495.5
6,125 575.9 493.8
6,188 578.6 491.1
6,246 580.2 487.9
6,306 581.9 484.7
6,360 581.3 480.0
6,415 580.5 475.3
6,380 564.0 464.3
6,330 480.0 398.3

For a blast around the industrial park as payment, the Westech crew was kind enough to read out our rear-wheel horsepower on its SuperFlow chassis dyno when we dropped by. These are real-world numbers too, with the car warmed up from an hour and a half freeway drive, no icing of the intake, humid-but cool-weather, the works. Further-more, we're printing the first run where the dyno operator shut off early at 6,400 rpm to ensure not over-revving the engine. Subsequent attempts showed the power peak at 6,800 rpm, but the engine was heat soaked from back-to-back running, so we're showing the abbreviated first test here because it had the best numbers. Be assured there would have been a 600 hp here had the test gone to 6,800 rpm. The engine pulls to 7,000 rpm with a vengeance, so it's eager stuff all the way up, too.

For the record, Ford says its testing yielded 601 rwhp, which it estimates is 690 hp and 620 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. Sounds accurate to us.

5.0 Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlock'03 Cobra cast ironCylinder HeadsFRPP High-Flow Four-Valve, DOHCIntake ManifoldWhippleCamshaftFRPP high-liftPower AdderWhipple superchargerExhaustFRPP short-tube headers, BassaniX-pipe, Borla Cat-BackFuel PumpTwo 190-lph MotorcraftFuel Injectors60-lb/hrTransmissionStock '03 Mustang Cobra T56RearendStock '03 Mustang Cobra IRS, 8.8-in, 3.73:1 gears

ElectronicsEngine ManagementEEC V, custom reflash by FordIgnition'03 Mustang CobraGaugesStock Cobra, plus FRPP A-pillar gauge pod w/boost and water temp gauges

Suspension And ChassisFront SuspensionK-memberStockSprings'00 Mustang Cobra RStruts'03 Mustang CobraWheelsFRPP FR500 chrome, 18x9-inTiresBFG g-Force T/A KD 265/35ZR-18BrakesFRPP '00 Cobra R front brake kit (four-piston Brembo calipers, slotted rotors, competition brake pads)Rear SuspensionSprings'00 Mustang Cobra RShocks'03 Mustang CobraWheelsFRPP FR500 chrome, 18x9-inTiresBFG g-Force T/A KD 295/35ZR-18BrakesStock